Heirloom Beans: Rattlesnake, White Half Runner, Six-Week and Goose

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Growing up we couldn’t wait to go to visit Grandma and Grandpa in Arkansas each summer. The excitement would build until it was time to go visit them and our cousins each July. Grandma and Grandpa lived back in the country which gave us city kids got a chance to chase the chickens (we were only trying to pet them) and ride horses for a while.

I think my love of gardening got started back then, handed down from Grandma and Grandpa, as I was soaking up the views of their vegetable garden each summer, where they grew what they needed, and the fields that surrounded their home, growing cotton and rice. I just couldn’t wait till I was big enough to have a garden of my own. Those trips made a lasting impression on me, that’s for sure.

I think each that’s why each gardening season I get so excited when it’s time to plant. Our garden here in Lower Michigan is slowly starting to produce. We have been hit by late spring frosts and one big flood.

So far we’ve only been able to pick cucumbers and peppers, but I can see the green beans are starting to come on now.

We’ve planted a variety of heirloom green beans. First there’s the Rattlesnake Bean, which originated from the Cherokee and are also known as Preacher Beans, because their high yield gives something for the preacher to preach about. They have long markings on them like rattlesnakes that disappear when you cook them. They taste so good.

Then there’s the Goose Bean, which was given to us by Pastor Hubbard, that we are growing for the first time this year. The story goes that grandpa brought a goose home and when grandma went to dress him she found these beans in its claws.

Finally, the White Half Runner, which we love, but were planted twice because of the cold, and when they finally started to grow we had six inches of rain, and they under too much water for far too long. We just have a few of these plants left, scattered here and there.

Running out of time in our short season, we remembered his mother’s jar of beans she gave us, Six-week Beans. These beans have a rich heritage where she lives, in the mountains of Kentucky. They have been saved and passed down for many generations. Their name means just that – it will be six weeks till harvest, just about the amount of time we had left!

Growing heirloom seeds in your vegetable garden is way to preserve heritage, have better tasting vegetables and save money. To think that I might be growing the same type of beans as my grandpa and grandma makes me feel like I still have a small connection to them. So try some heirloom seeds out next year, then save the seed!